If you are a helpful, knowledgeable salesperson
reading this (and there are many of you out there and I thank you),
please cover your eyes and read no further. However, if not …
We’ve all experienced a few lemons in our time: Those store sales associates who
are either way too pushy (please don’t chase me down the aisle!),
not pushy enough (as in can hardly be bothered to approach you)
or are completely clueless. Such as when you know more about the fragrance/product than they do, or they tell you something doesn’t exist when you know good and well it does.
I always wonder why — after all, it is their job, for heaven’s sake. Although not an easy one,
I’ll admit. Some of the customers I’m sure can be royal
pains, and standing on your feet for most of the day
is not my idea of fun.
For the most part, I think they do try to be friendly and helpful.
This is in no way a slam against them, but I thought
I would share my most memorable SA moments.
Several years ago, I went shopping for a nightgown in a mainstream
department store. I saw one that I liked, hanging on the wall far above
my reach. I hunted down a sales associate and asked her
if she could please use one of those long retrieval hooks to get it down for me.
“Are ya gonna buy it?” she asked me, with a look and a tone that implied that she wasn’t
going to waste the time if I wasn’t going to spend the dime. I just gaped at her
in disbelief and left. Probably should have said something to the manager,
but I’m not big on confrontation, and I didn’t want the guilt of possibly
helping someone lose their job.
My other quite memorable incident occurred when I was in college, not far from a major
metropolitan area. I’d come in to the city to look around at one of the upscale department stores
and to stock up on my Clinique skin-care supply.
To my mind, I looked fairly presentable in my button-down shirt and nice jeans,
wearing makeup, and with more than $50 in my pocket, which back then would buy a decent
amount of product. Now granted, I wasn’t wearing a fur coat or
carrying a Chanel bag, but still, I was feeling pretty good about myself as I headed down
the elegant cosmetics corridor and stopped at the Clinique area.
I had a list of products and all I needed was someone to
get the items and ring the sale. Easy as pie, right?
Just down the counter stood a sales associate with no customers,
and who, as far as I could see, wasn’t doing anything. I pointedly looked her way
several times and … nothing. OK, I thought, let’s take the bull by the horns. I went down to HER,
stopped in front of her and asked in my most polite voice, “Could you please help me with some Clinique?” She looked at me, pursed her lips, and said, “I’m sorry,” and I
could have sworn she turned her nose up at me as she walked away.
Perhaps to her I did look like a college kid with very little money to spend.
Or maybe it was that the Clinique paled in comparison, commission-wise, with the La Prairie or other luxury lines that she normally sold. But sheesh, a sale is a sale, right?
As there were no other salespeople around, I walked
out and headed over to a mid-level store with a fully staffed
Clinique counter and was graciously helped.
Fast forward some 20 years later, and I’m in the same high-end store
looking at cosmetics, when someone behind me says,
“Madam, may I help you?” There were a few more wrinkles on her pale face and she now wore glasses, but the prim, tight smile was the same — it was HER.
Despite the years, the sting of being so blatantly snubbed came back in a rush.
“Just looking,” I said as I turned away, trying to recover from the
shock of seeing her.
But the more I thought about it, the more irritated I became.
So I did something completely out of character for my normally peace-loving self.
I did an about-face and marched back to her.
“NO, you cannot help me,” I told her emphatically. “You couldn’t help me 20 years
ago when I was a college student trying to buy Clinique, and you certainly cannot help
me spend my money now on (brand X).”
She stared at me, looking stricken and even more pale, if that was possible. “I’m … I’m sorry,”
she stammered and then backed away (perhaps thinking I might
I felt a pang of regret for my outburst,
but I swallowed my urge to apologize and walked out.
I only saw her a time or two after that, and she
was very careful to avoid me.
Even now, I have mixed feelings about what I
did that day. But I do think that there comes a point
in most people’s lives where they’ve had it up to here,
and feel like enough is enough.
Anyway, I’d love to hear your memorable encounters with sales associates,
the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
P.S. In the above store’s defense, there is now an SA who works there who is the
epitome of kindness and professionalism, and she (and several others) have more than redeemed my bad experience there so many years ago.
photo: frame from Pretty Woman – one of the best Evil SA Comeuppance films of all time!